Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (July 24/03)
If Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is, in fact, the end of the Spy Kids movies, it's just about the most anti-climactic end to a series ever. Where the first two films were fun and enjoyable, Spy Kids 3-D is overbearing and obnoxious. The film makes the fatal mistake of utilizing 3-D technology that just doesn't work (it's those old red-and-blue glasses that should've been made obsolete in the '50s), and effectively infuriates those in the audience over the age of twelve.
In a prologue that's mercifully not in 3-D, we learn that Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) has abandoned the Spy Kid lifestyle in favor of detective work (he couldn't handle the pressure that comes with being a spy, apparently). But when his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) is kidnapped and held hostage inside a cheesy video game, Juni has to pick up where he left off and venture inside the game to save her.
That simplistic storyline is a big part of why Spy Kids 3-D fails as horribly as it does. The teamwork aspect of the first two films, between Carmen and Juni, is almost completely absent here. And that was a big part of what made those films as entertaining as they were: the idea that this squabbling pair of siblings had to work together to solve a variety of complex and clever puzzles. Here, the majority of the film is akin to watching someone else play a video game, as Juni gets into car chases, fights robots, etc. With hardly a whiff of a plot to keep things moving, this becomes incredibly tedious almost immediately. While the special effects are admittedly quite impressive, they'd be more at home in an arcade.
And then, of course, there's the 3-D aspect of the movie. Every single moment of the film that takes place inside the game (which adds up to at least an hour of screentime), is presented using "the very latest digital technology" (or so says the press notes) of 3-D effects. But really, this is about as effective as those old William Castle movies of the '50s - and just as annoying. Seeing through these flimsy glasses proves to be the first major test, as the blue portion of the glasses seems to have been tinted a little too darkly. Even if you're able to see properly, you'll immediately notice that supposed 3-D objects barely appear to leave the screen. And it's not like the technology to create effective 3-D images doesn't exist; James Cameron's Ghosts of the Abyss did a superb job of immersing the audience in a realistic-seeming 3-D world. Fortunately, Rodriguez seems to have predicted that most people wouldn't be able to sit through an entire movie wearing the glasses, and the movie is watchable without them. Background images have primarily been "enhanced," meaning it's actually preferable to view the flick without the aid of the glasses.
Spy Kids 3-D will presumably fare a lot better on home video, where the 3-D effects will be removed from the film. But even if that's the case, you'll still have to sit through a terminally dull storyline that makes Tron look like Citizen Kane.